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According to the annual Cowen survey, parents have an increasingly negative perception of New Orleans schools

Parents have more negative perceptions of New Orleans public schools this year than in previous years, according to the Cowen Institute’s annual survey of New Orleans residents’ opinions on various educational issues.

Vincent Rossmeier, director of policy at Tulane University’s Cowen Institute, said general parental perceptions of public education in New Orleans are “noticeably more negative than in years past.”

About 34% of parents said they were positive about public charter schools in this year’s survey, up from 46% in 2021 and 54% in 2020.

About 41% said they had a neutral opinion and 17% said they had no opinion. Only 8% were somewhat or very negative about the system, compared to 9% last year.

“This is consistent with broader trends we’re seeing across New Orleans polls in general of increasingly negative feelings about life here and the city’s overall direction,” Rossmeier said.

Orleans Parish School Board President Olin Parker noted that the small percentage of parents who had negative reactions was far outweighed by those who had neutral opinions or chose not to respond.

“Overall I think people are extremely positive about their own schools and we as a district need to better describe how this system contributes to that and how the school system supports children across the city,” he said.

Conducted annually by the Cowen Institute, the poll surveyed 1,000 New Orleans residents in September. Of the group, 81% have children who attend public schools, 15% have children who attend private or church schools, 2% have children who attend a mix of public and private schools, 1% have homeschooled their children and fewer than 1% have a mixed school of children who are homeschooled and attend public and private schools.

This year, a large number of respondents said they did not wish to express an opinion or did not know or recognize what they were being asked about. For example, 17% of respondents declined to voice their opinion on the charter public school system, up from 1% last year. Rossmeier said voter fatigue could be a factor in that number.

When asked about the quality of education in New Orleans, 55% of parents gave it a “C,” 24% an A or B, and 12% a D or F. Last year, 33% gave it a “C,” 48% gave it an A or B and 11% a D or F.

“Parents find the education on offer here to be mediocre, for lack of a better word, and I think they are looking for something higher and would like access to better schools,” says Rossmeier. “There aren’t enough A and B schools in the city to meet the demand or parents’ expectations and that’s a fundamental problem of all of this.”

Parents also reported slightly less positive attitudes toward NOLA Public Schools as the governing body this year compared to last year, with 31% saying they felt positive or somewhat positive about her, up from 34% last year.

Similarly, there was a slight decrease in the percentage of parents expressing positive thoughts about the NOLA-PS enrollment process, called NCAP.

As in 2020 and 2021, respondents said their top concern in New Orleans was crime. This year, poverty and education came in second, closely followed by the economy and jobs.

Throughout the survey, Rossmeier said, there are variances between parents based on their socioeconomic status and educational attainment.

For example, 48% of those with a high school diploma or less and 52% of those earning less than $40,000 said their education was “deteriorating”. That number was 34% for college graduates and 24% for parents earning more than $75,000.

“There are equity issues that remain throughout the system…how people access information about the system, how they access schools in general,” Rossmeier said.